Is a dead shark in a tank really worth millions of dollars? Art, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder—but Damien Hirst’s infamous 1991 work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, fetched a reported US$12 million for reasons aside from its creative merit. In the video above, Vox breaks down the economics behind high-profile art market sales, and explains why an art dealer’s reputation is sometimes just as important (if not more so) than a work’s creator.
Sometimes even Antiques Roadshow makes a mistake: An face jug that the show appraised at US$50,000 last year, calling it “bizarre and wonderful” and assigning it to the late 19th or early 20th century, was actually made in an Oregon high school art class in the ‘70s. The artist, a Bend, Oregon horse trainer named Betsy Soule, came forward after a friend recognised her piece on the show. It has since been re-appraised for between US$3,000 and US$5,000.
This month, New York will once again host a “gigaweek” of postwar, impressionist, modern, and contemporary art auctions, where hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures will sell every night for five days in a row.
The current narrative sending jitters through the art world is that the market, especially at the high end, is experiencing “a correction,” which is a polite way of saying that wildly expensive paintings are becoming slightly less so. Still, the evening auctions have more than enough multimillion-dollar, museum-quality artworks that will (if they sell) quiet naysayers—at least for now.